We hope by now that you’ve hung up your stockings on the wall, your family has arrived, and that you’ve ascertained whether or not you have the room to spare inside. But before your granny proves herself to be a musical hypocrite, take a moment to look back on the past twelve months. It’s been a strange one by all accounts. Brexit. Trump. A cull of beloved celebrities. The rise of the far right. Terror. Fear. Division. Prejudice. Aston Villa being relegated. Frankly, I’m not convinced we’ll all survive the last seven days.
Which is why we’ve chosen Christmas Day as the perfect time to focus on the positive, and look back on what has been a much better year in the world of Red Dwarf than it has been for anyone in the actual world. Six brand new episodes recorded. Another six brand new episodes aired. A mobile game. New merchandise. Live DwarfCasts. The dramatic increase in usage of the word “cloche”. It’s definitely been a busy one, so settle down for a comprehensive look back on everything that happened and how we covered it.
As the year started, so did production of Red Dwarf XII. While the gang were getting back together at Pinewood, John Hoare was pondering the placement of the ad breaks in Series X. It was a much simpler time, but the first indication we had that 2016 would be an absolute shithouse came with the death of David Bowie, which we felt compelled to mark. Things were looking up when it was announced that Robot Wars was due to return. Since then, return it has, with two Christmas specials and a second series still to come, but sadly without the Red Dwarf connection.
Meanwhile, our DwarfCasts entered their tenth year of existence, which was marked with the completion of our Series IV commentaries. Arguably more excitingly, we soon got our first glimpse of the new Red Dwarf nosecone model, at around the same time as location filming for Series XII got underway. But even more excitingly, Cappsy published the second half of his article on the Series X guest cast, just two years and nine months after the first.
Then we saw the year’s first instance of something Red Dwarf-related being leaked early by mistake, which would go on to become one of its defining features. An actress called Naomi Sheldon tweeted-and-hastily-deleted a picture of herself in Starbug’s cockpit. Two days later saw the first audience recording for Series XII. Our set report came courtesy of RockstarDinosaur PiratePrincess and Carrie Parsons. We strongly suspect it’s the one where everyone’s Kryten.
Lo and behold, seven days later they were back in front of an audience again. Jon Botham and Joey Newsome told us that it was an ensemble piece with a special guest star, but that some of the audience were dicks to the stand-in warm up guy. A tedious argument about whether or not it was shit then ensued for the full week before the next recording. The word on Twitter was that it was going to be a difficult and possibly divisive episode, and this was certainly borne out by the set report, although the overall picture from me, Aaron Phillips, Curtis Threadgold and Jonathan “Jonsmad” Young was a positive one.
There was a flurry of Twitter activity in the following week, providing us with glimpses of a Starbug storyboard and lots of close-ups of various sets ahead of the fourth recording. We ended up with six volunteers in attendance, which resulted in the biggest set report ever. Then a bit of a mishap happened when it was announced that the final audience recording of the series would be postponed. This was a rare blip in a production that otherwise seemed incredibly smooth compared to Series X, and the month was rounded off with the trouble-free recording of episode five.
The extended gap between the penultimate and ultimate recordings gave John the opportunity to Google pictures of attractive young newsreaders, and to round-up all the whispers that seemed to indicate that the final episode was to be very special indeed. That was confirmed by the general mood of the set report, which came in exciting DwarfCast form out of practical necessity. The DwarfCast itself was nearly ruined by me getting home from work and mentioning something I’d seen on Twitter, but we’re not going to talk about that until the episode airs and we can get it off our chests.
So with the series wrapped, it was time to take a breather and wait for the information to trickle in. An interview with Robert spoke of “an enormous amount of Krytens” in one episode, rather than the four we’d been expecting. Meanwhile, John decided to investigate the proposed revival of The Brittas Empire, and the conclusion was that it seems fucked. Oh well. Further meanwhile, Danny and I got together to commentate on the double-bill of tedium that is Epideme and Nanarchy.
Luckily, that wasn’t all we recorded. As part of an elaborate April Fools joke that backfired, Mac McDonald invited us into his house, and we had a lovely and hilarious chat about his life and career in Red Dwarf and beyond. A week or so later we learned that BBC Worldwide had bought a controlling stake in Red Dwarf co-producer Baby Cow. We wondered how it might affect the show, and concluded that it probably wouldn’t. A relatively quiet month ended with John losing his shit over the production’s lax attitude to spoiler control.
While Spring was in the air, I locked myself away with my collection of Smegazines, and this analysis and catalogue combo was the fruit of my forbidden passion. May also saw the passing of Gareth Gwenlan; far from the highest profile casualty of 2016, but probably the one who played the biggest part in Red Dwarf folklore. There were also a few rumblings about the possibility of a Red Dwarf stage show, and a DwarfCast commentary for Queeg that breaks with tradition by being quite good.
Then May became Model Month. The model shoot for the two new series started, with the Magic Camera Company and Mike Tucker’s Model Unit both on board. Then came the pictures. First a big old Red Dwarf with a motion control rig, then the leg of a 3-D printed Starbug, then a befucked Starbug in full. It was an exciting time; with rumours of a September air date and the unveiling of a sparkly Series XI logo also dotted amongst these updates, it seemed the publicity juggernaut was beginning to speed up.
Then the juggernaut stopped still for a while, and then we were all caught off guard by another, referendum-shaped juggernaut crashing into the United Kingdom’s astonished face. Consequently, June was a quiet month for G&T, although we did manage to add Series V to the list of completed commentaries. Then the news started picking up at the same rate as the pound started crashing, with talk of rough cuts being assembled and a bizarre but thankfully as-yet-unsubstantiated rumour of a Series 1-V Bluray. Then the big one – confirmation of the September start, and a whacking great series synopsis. How wrong my speculation about the female Cat turned out to be.
With broadcast now a mere two and a bit months away, July saw the start of regular weekly updates, usually simultaneously tweeted by @RedDwarfHQ, @Join_Dave and @babycowLtd on a Friday. The first such item was a shot of the new Starbug model on a new Red Dwarf landing pad, something which we didn’t actually see during Series XI. A week later, it was revealed that the first episode of the new series would be titled Twentica, which also revealed for the first time that the broadcast order would be nothing like the production order. Next came a storyboard, which turned out to be from Give & Take.
Meanwhile, John launched a campaign to get to the bottom of why UKTV channels always show the Re-Mastered version of Marooned when all their other episodes are the originals, and to see if we could get them to fix it. Stay tuned for more, as our attention was then grabbed by the release of the first publicity photo, where they’d accidentally put a picture of Michael McIntyre instead of Kryten. Luckily, a mere day later we were treated to a much better photo, which allayed some of the fears.
While all this was going on, John was investigating how many of the sites G&T used to link to in 2004 were still online. But still the production stills came, with the first glimpse of what we now know to be Asclepius, but for so long went by variations on the name “Scary Big Fuck Off Medical Robot Fish Thing”.
The past’s John Hoare kicked off the month with a rather interesting comparison between Better Than Life and a 1959 episode of Hancock’s Half Hour. It was around this time that Dave accidentally published an article containing the episode titles and synopses for the entirety of Series XI. We spent so long debating amongst ourselves as to whether we should cover it, the eventual official release was quite the relief. The following day, we started counting down to the series by releasing weekly DwarfCast commentaries for Series X, which had been recorded in advance but that also contained freshly-recorded introductions containing the latest news.
Then we all had a bit of a shock, when the air date for Twentica was confirmed for the 22nd September, but that it – and indeed the other five episodes – would debut on UKTV Play a week in advance of their Dave debut. We were deeply concerned about the impact that this would have on fandom, and consequently the intro for the next DwarfCast was just an incoherent yet passionate rant on the subject. We then solicited for your opinions as to how our coverage should work, but that proved inconclusive, and we’re still waiting for an ideal solution to present itself two months after the last episode. Please, on the off chance that anyone at UKTV is reading this: don’t put us through this again in 2017. We all liked things how they were.
Anyway, the weekly drip feed of new pictures continued apace, with six new photos to gawp at, most of which came from Series XI. After a brief pause for a Lemons commentary, we entered the time of the trailers. It started on the Friday, with a trailer for the full trailer, which was due to debut during a repeat run of Series 2 on Dave on the Saturday. After we thoroughly enjoyed the classic episode Queel, the trailer appeared during Paraggeg Universe, and we analysed the shit out of it. There were a few shots from the teaser that weren’t in the trailer, and it wasn’t long before other variations started turning up, so Danny and I rounded all of this up on the next DwarfCast, only for yet another variant to show up before the month was out.
Before we knew it, we were in the month of broadcast, and the news came thick and fast. Screenings took place in Edinburgh and Manchester, a new Twentica picture was released, the horrible old publicity shot was replaced with a much nicer one, we tweeted along to a repeat run of Series IV, which gave rise to some fun new Dwarf Facts, and a fan screening was announced. We gave away five pairs of tickets in our next DwarfCast, and they were snapped up within 29 minutes.
As well as a new break bumper and new footage in a UKTV Play promo, September also saw UKTV host their annual UKTV Live event, and Red Dwarf featured heavily. As well as the cast appearing on Periscope and Twentica getting another preview airing, we learned that Inbetweeners star James Buckley would be appearing in Series XII and that a raft of brand new merchandise was on its way. When more details of the latter emerged, we also found out that we’d be getting a Red Dwarf XI mobile game released within a fortnight.
While we once again took to Twitter to piss about during a Series V marathon, John reported some extraordinarily good news regarding the whole Marooned Re-Mastered thing. In addition, UKTV also provided us with two new clips from Series XI via Facebook, and we finally got around to announcing our plans for the series. As the big day approached, BAFTA held a screening for Twentica and Samsara, and SFX released an issue with four collectable Red Dwarf covers, a big feature on Series XI and a free mini-booklet celebrating the show’s history. We successfully completed the world’s first livetweeting of a man reading a magazine.
Then, on the 15th September, the wait was finally over, with Twentica released on UKTV Play that morning. It was also the day that the brand new shop opened, although it would be several weeks before anyone got their hands on the actual merchandise. We presented the five biggest talking points from the new episode, ahead of Cappsy kicking off our series of reviews. As if that wasn’t enough, I analysed the new title sequence, Cappsy researched the developers behind the forthcoming game, and we accidentally interviewed guest star Kevin Eldon, all before Twentica had even aired on Dave.
But when that date came, so did our first live DwarfCast since 2013, and therefore so did hundreds of excited listeners. It was a lot tougher this time round – the UKTV Play thing splitting the audience, geography splitting the G&T team and John Hoare being hospitalised with a bout of pneumonia, which was incredibly selfish of him – and while we weren’t 100% happy with the end results, we were incredibly grateful to those that listened live and joined in with the discussion. The first episode featured a report on that night’s fan screening, as well as an interview with the excellent Rebecca Blackstone.
It was also the day that Red Dwarf XI: The Game was released, bringing with it the forum thread that soon became a place for the developers to interact directly with the players, which remains an excellent turn of events. The very next day, Samsara was released on UKTV Play, and we were once again on hand with Talking Points. Cappsy was a very busy boy, as he also provided a playalong video slash review for the first episode of The Game ahead of my Samsara review. While all this was going on, Danny John-Jules was being extremely irritating on Twitter, but it resulted in a sneak peek of the DVD cover.
Before the month was out, Samsara debuted on the telly, and our subsequent Live DwarfCast featured news of a potential Series XII plot and more stage show rumours, as well as a handful of inserts that would go on to become regular features for the remainder of the run. On the final day, UKTV Play released Give & Take, and we just managed to squeeze in our Talking Points. Phew.
October dawned with two fifths of the G&T team either in intensive care or looking after someone in intensive care, so Cappsy returned to reviewing duties for Give & Take. Meanwhile, our old friends at the BBFC provided us with some clues about forthcoming episodes, and some worrying details about the various durations of the DVD extras. G&T aired, and G&T covered it live, before Officer Rimmer then popped up online and we talked about its points. Tanya provided the review, and everything was going swimmingly.
Then, on the day that OffRimm was due to air on TV, UKTV Play shat itself and accidentally released Krysis a full 24 hours early. Naturally, this cock-up was discussed at length in that evening’s live DwarfCast, and it was at this point that the whole concept of episodes being released in advance online tipped over from being an irritant to a complete nuisance. The episode was taken down pretty quickly, but when it returned the next day we provided our Talking Points, ahead of Cappsy completing his review hat-trick.
Somewhere along the line, the word “cloche” was popularised ahead of the TV broadcast, and it featured heavily on the Live DwarfCast, as did John Hoare – things were starting to feel normal again, just as the end came into sight. The following week saw the final UKTV Play release and the final Talking Points, before yours truly provided the final review. By the time of the final broadcast, we were scratching our heads as to why our collective opinions on the episode differed so much from the consensus, which we attempted to tackle on the final Live DwarfCast.
All of this took place against a backdrop of mind-blowing revelations regarding hidden lyrics to the opening theme tune, so we were looking forward to relaxing for a little while until the DVD release. But there was just time for another bit of Red Dwarf material to be accidentally published early before the end of the month, when the DVD extras wound up on iTunes and Google Play. Nice going on the idiotic gaffe front, sirs, we almost lasted a full two weeks.
The eleventh month of the year was significantly less manic than the previous two, but the march of new Dwarf could not be completely stopped. The Samsara section of The Game was rolled out in the first week of November, setting a release pattern that ensures a little Dwarfy treat every six weeks or so, well into 2017. We rounded up all the bonus bits that those who sensibly avoided our Live DwarfCasts would have missed, and then my merchandise order finally turned up nearly two months late, so I discussed the various cock-ups and reviewed the products themselves in video form.
Speaking of videos, Cappsy commentated on his playthrough of The Game‘s Samsara level just for you, before we were blown away by the sudden arrival of four official soundtrack releases by Howard Goodall. In most weeks, this would be as astonishing as things got, but the very next day saw what we like to refer to as The Steelbook Clusterfuck, in which a list of provisional episode titles for Series XII was accidentally mailed directly to hundreds of hardcore Red Dwarf fans.
In most months, this would be as astonishing as things got, but four days later we learned that Red Dwarf would feature in a forthcoming installment of Lego Dimensions. Speculation was rife, until a TOS update clarified the exact nature of the crossover, namely that the ship would be a hidden area in the Fantastic Beasts expansion pack. I still find this faintly mind-boggling over a month later, but not as unfathomable as some of the decisions made in the production of the DVD/Bluray/Steelbook, as covered in my review.
Then we went a bit shit for the last few weeks of the year. Sorry about that. We had big plans, but real life got in the way, and they’ve had to be shelved until the new year. Nevertheless, there were a few snippets of news, such as even more new merchandise, and Robert and Craig’s appearance on the We Have Been Watching Christmas special. We also launched an advent calendar on Twitter and Facebook, showcasing the best and worst of our content from the last fourteen years, culminating in this very article behind the 25th door.
Then a Christmas miracle occurred and things began to pick up, with mumblings about the next game update, followed by the next game update, and finally Cappsy’s video review of the next game update. Also, Craig Charles appeared on the Christmas Eve edition of Weekend with Aled Jones… as did G&T’s very own Danny Stephenson (skip to 11:30 if you can even be bothered to get past the adverts). OK, he was wearing his Fan Club colours rather than his G&T ones, but we’re all one big clique anyway, right? He and his colleague Jez Harrison tested Craig on his Red Dwarf knowledge, with predictable results.
Truly a bizarre way for the Dwarfing year to end, which is entirely in keeping with the spirit of 2016. As previously stated – and indeed as every commentator under the sun will be stating for years to come – it was a batshit crazy year for the entire world, and not a particularly good one. But just look at how much new stuff we, as Red Dwarf fans, got given this year. Look at all those huge surprises, good and bad, and all the massive talking points to chew over. Things have been far from perfect at times, but at this time of year, we should take stock and count our blessings. This is a show that effectively died in 1999, and yet in 2016 there were six new episodes, a mobile game, a new range of merchandise, a DVD/Bluray and four soundtrack albums released. It was a good year for Red Dwarf.
2016 was also a tumultuous year in the private lives of your humble G&T team. Several of us suffered bereavements, most of us made changes in our careers, one of us moved to a different part of the country and one of us spent weeks in hospital. One of us is expecting a fucking baby, for fuck’s sake (Cappsy, for the record). Through it all, new Red Dwarf has given us something to focus on, and the G&T community has been the one much-needed constant in our lives. We’re incredibly grateful for that, so thank you, dear reader, for being a part of it.
We’ve often banged on about our big plans for the future, and such things rarely materialise, but suffice to say that in 2017 we’ll still be here, doing whatever we can to keep you entertained until the Series XII news starts to emerge. We’ve also got Dimension Jump XIX in April, new episodes of The Game throughout the next few months, and lord knows what merchandise and promotion will turn up with the new series later in the year. I dare say speculation about Series XIII and beyond will kick up a gear too, with the general feeling being that things won’t end with Series XII.
The future for Red Dwarf is brighter than it’s been in a long time. Cheers to that, cheers to Doug, Richard, Kerry, Henry, Chris, Craig, Danny, Robert, all at GNP, Baby Cow and UKTV, the cast and crew of XI and/or XII, GameDigits, Howard Goodall, even fucking Sandbag. And cheers once again to all those who’ve joined us this year. Merry Christmas, one and all.
Now, fuck off.